I have lived in San Francisco for well over a decade. During that time, rents soared year upon year. Then COVID-19 hit. While it’s terrible to be in this pandemic, one silver lining is that rent prices have gone down significantly. I’ve never had to renegotiate a rent decrease before. It simply wasn’t an option here in the past. Now, however, I’m studying all that there is to know about the topic. Here are ten ways to renegotiate a rent decrease:

1. First, Simply Ask

If you are on good terms with your landlord then you might just come right out and ask for a rent reduction. This is particularly common during the coronavirus pandemic, when landlords certainly understand that people are facing economic hardship. This tends to work best in small buildings where you deal directly with the landlord rather than large complexes where you work with a property manager.

2. Write a Letter Explaining Your Case

Unfortunately, many people simply aren’t in the position to ask their landlord face to face to renegotiate a rent decrease. You may feel anxiety, not have a strong relationship with your landlord, or otherwise want to go through a more formal process. In this case, it’s smart to write a letter to your landlord. Here’s a sample template to get you started.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to include the following things in your letter:

  • A dated statement that you are writing to renegotiate a rent decrease.
  • Information about what the current market rate is for comparable housing.
  • Comparison of what you pay compared to that market rate.
  • Clear statement of the amount you wish to pay.
  • Examples of the ways you’ve been a good tenant (on-time payments, etc.)

During the current climate, you might also point out that approximately one-third of renters aren’t paying their rent during COVID-19. Emphasize that you have options such as eviction moratoriums but that you would rather work directly with the landlord to lower the price to something more manageable.

3. Ask for a Property Assessment

I’ve lived in my apartment for over a decade. The landlord has done little to nothing in that time to upgrade the apartment. Therefore, what was a good deal on my rent ten years ago isn’t such a good deal today. After all, everything from the appliances to the paint is ten years older. If someone else was going to move in, the landlord would have to invest money to bring the place up to date.

Therefore, one option is to request a property assessment. You might have an appraiser come in on your own or you might work with your landlord on this. The point is to highlight to the landlord all of the things that the apartment needs. Then offer to renegotiate a rent decrease instead of having the landlord make all of those improvements. Doing this allows the landlord to see that it’s to their benefit to reduce your rent.

4. Barter Services for Lower Rent

Are there things that you could do around the apartment building to make life easier, and perhaps cheaper, for your landlord? For example, we have some common areas in my building that need regular cleaning. Perhaps I could get some money taken off of my rent in exchange for maintaining those areas for the landlord. Property maintenance, painting, lawn care, marketing, showing other units to prospective renters, and other similar tasks may be worth it to your landlord.

5. Offer to Give Up Some Things

Maybe your apartment comes with a parking space but you don’t need or use it. Ask the landlord if you could give up the parking space (allowing them to rent it to someone else) for a rent reduction.

6. Offer Advance Payment

If you have some savings then you might be in a position to pay your rent in advance. Some landlords will accept a significantly reduced monthly rate if you pay three months, six months, or even twelve months in advance. While most of us aren’t currently in that position, it’s a great option to consider if you are.

7. Sign a New Lease

If you’re on a lease that’s coming up for renewal then that’s the perfect time to renegotiate a rent decrease. When your landlord sends the new lease, let them know that you won’t be signing it before you discuss the rent. This is when you can go step-by-step over the details.

Even if your landlord decides not to lower your rent, they might be willing to negotiate other terms of the lease to your benefit. For example, a landlord that previously didn’t allow pets might be flexible on that. Or they might agree to pay utilities if you keep your rent rate the same. Getting more for the same price is effectively a rent reduction.

Another thing to consider is extending your lease. If you typically sign a one-year lease, ask the landlord if they would consider lower rent if you commit to a two-year lease instead. Landlords like good tenants to stay put so this can be good incentive for them.

8. Suggest a Temporary Rent Reduction

Realtor.com explains that some landlords are willing to offer a temporary rent reduction for short periods of time. For example, if you’re facing financial hardship, have been a good tenant, and happen to be in the off-season for the landlord’s properties then there’s a good chance that you could renegotiate a rent decrease that lasts 3-6 months. It’s better than nothing and can help you save some money.

9. Ask What Would Help Lower Your Rent

Perhaps you’re not getting anywhere with your landlord. Sometimes it can help to put the ball in their court. Ask them what you can do to renegotiate a rent decrease.

This changes the narrative. Instead of you asking for a decrease and the landlord simply saying no, you give them the chance to get creative with what they would like to see happen to lower your rent.

The answers might surprise you. Your landlord might want you to reduce water waste in a place where they pay the water bill. Perhaps they’d charge less if you pay on the 25th of the previous month instead of paying on the 1st during the month rent is due. Ask, review their answer carefully, and decide if it’s the right choice for you.

10. Threaten to Leave

If your landlord isn’t budging on the rent, and the market is right for it, then you might want to consider moving. You shouldn’t threaten to do this unless you truly intend to. If you’re at this stage, you can begin looking at comparable apartments to move into. As you make those applications, you can keep your landlord abreast of the places you’re finding and where you might consider moving. Don’t be shy about sharing the (lower) rent offered at these places. When your landlord realizes that you are serious about moving, they might get more flexible about the amount of rent that you pay.

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